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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jan 26, 2012 7:32am
Forum: occupywallstreet Subject: Re: #!? review for a new documentary film 'INTERNET RISING'

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The iEconomy

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

By CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA Gu Huini contributed research.
Published: January 25, 2012 (below are a few paragraphs from page 1)

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening on May 20, 2011. An eruption of fire and noise twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

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In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.

Apple was provided with extensive summaries of this article, but the company declined to comment. The reporting is based on interviews with more than three dozen current or former employees and contractors, including a half-dozen current or former executives with firsthand knowledge of Apple’s supplier responsibility group, as well as others within the technology industry.

I, Monte Barry, am 60 years old. I taped the Grateful Dead numerous times in 1973, beginning on June 9 and 10, at RFK Stadium. The Grateful Dead used Ampex audio tape decks dozens of times to record their SBDs, albums, and other commercial releases. I also taped many other bands in the mid-1970s. I worked 3 years as a soundman through 1976. Then I worked for Ampex for 6 years, beginning in 1979. Ampex invented the videotape recorder in 1955.

Awards for Technical Excellence issued to Ampex for products and technology Ampex developed during the period 1957 - 1990 include eleven Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and an Oscar.

Alembic developed and produced much of the equipment that was used by the Grateful Dead for their famous "wall of sound" PA System in 1973 and 1974. Ron Wickersham, one of Alembic's founders, worked previously as an audio engineer for Ampex. Alembic is best known for making fine modern guitars and basses.

I've worked over 30 years in electronics.

Ampex never had any explosions in their main Audio-Video Systems Division factory in Colorado Springs. Ampex workers were not getting killed there on the job. This plant operated in Colorado for many years during the '70s, '80s, and '90s. I worked there for 3 years; and 3 years Ampex field service engineer in the NYC area. Ampex workers were not severely stressed out and subjected to harsh working conditions. In fact, no Ampex workers ever committed suicide due to these reasons.

Ampex technicians and engineers were and are very highly regarded by Broadcasters, Cable TV Networks, NAB, SMPTE, AES, and other professional organizations. Ampex technicians and engineers were and are among the highest sought-after, and highest-paid, workers in Broadcasting. I epitomize this fact.

Alembic never had any explosions in their main facility. Alembic workers are not getting killed there on the job, nor have I ever heard of any of them committing suicide due to being subjected to harsh working conditions.

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Feb 10, 2012 11:41am
Forum: occupywallstreet Subject: Re: #!? review for a new documentary film 'INTERNET RISING'

• Apple, Accustomed to Profits and Praise, Faces Outcry for Labor Practices at Chinese Factories

Charles Duhigg and Mike Daisey were interviewed on the Democracynow newshour program today, on the War and Peace Report.

Charles Duhigg is an award-winning staff reporter for the New York Times. He helped break this story about the human costs of Apple products for workers in China.

Mike Daisey is a Playwright and actor who is currently performing a one-man show called, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." He has visited factories in China that make Apple products and interviewed the workers. I copied a few excerpts and assembled them below...

AMY GOODMAN: You went to China.

MIKE DAISEY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked to these workers. Describe the breadth of the place and what you found when you talked to these workers.

MIKE DAISEY: Well, I think this conversation is fantastic. I think that it does feel like we’re in a post-industrial society, so this place is all the engines we need to run everything we make. The scale is really staggering. You’re talking about rooms that hold 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 workers, in enormous rooms where people work silently. I think one of the things we don’t think about a lot is that — when things are made by hand. When the cost of labor is unbelievably cheap, the most effective way to exploit that is to assemble by hand. So, despite the fact that our devices are so advanced, once the parts of that device are made, they’re assembled by hand. So these things that seem so advanced — and are so advanced — the supply chain that’s evolved has a component in it that involves many, many small hands putting your devices together in a row, one after another, despite the fact that your Apple product looks so pristine. In fact, one of the last steps is to put a sticker over it that makes it look as though no human has ever touched your Apple product.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The reason why so many American factories left the United States — as the industrial workers became unionized, they were able to increase the pay and better their working conditions. What — when you started talking to the Chinese workers there, what about the labor unions? What about the ability of the workers to organize in these huge plants? Why has that not occurred at a more rapid and a more developed pace?

MIKE DAISEY: Well, I mean, there’s a really simple explanation. Labor organization in China is illegal. If you organize a union in China that is separate from the Communist Party, and those are largely fronts, in terms of working conditions, you go to prison if you’re caught by the government. So, that largely shuts down any sort of serious effort at labor organization. I think that’s part and parcel of the landscape. I mean, there’s a reason why this environment works so well for the needs of creating a hyperinflated, hyper-growing industrial revolution, and that’s that you have a base of workers who live under an authoritarian government and can be controlled. The circumstances are very controlled. And so, I think that’s part of the equation that we don’t like to look at.

AMY GOODMAN: How the company deals with the suicides, and what actually is happening? What are Chinese workers doing?

MIKE DAISEY: Well, there was a series of suicides at Foxconn where, month after month, workers would go up to the roofs of the buildings and throw themselves off the buildings, in a very public manner. The thing about this is that the number of suicides is not the issue so much as the cluster. The fact that people were choosing to kill themselves in an incredibly public manner is really relevant and has to do, I think, with pressures of the production line. It’s a very intense environment. And the people who come into those jobs are often in a very blessed position. They’ve come from the rural areas, and they’re making a new life for themselves. But they have to send money back to many, many dependents back where they come from. So they’re in a perfect position to be exploited, like they don’t feel, in some cases, like they can leave. And it can be very tough.

AMY GOODMAN: And how the company dealt with the suicides?

MIKE DAISEY: Well, Foxconn chose to deal with the suicides, in the period when I was visiting — what they had done, after month after month of suicides, was put up [safety] nets.

AMY GOODMAN: [safety] Nets?

MIKE DAISEY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: To catch the bodies.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I wanted to ask Charles Duhigg about Foxconn, because one of the abilities of American companies now is to have these foreign suppliers, so that they have this wall, supposedly, between their own employees and employment conditions and these contractors. Who is Foxconn? Who owns it? How did it arise? And what is its importance today in China?

CHARLES DUHIGG: Foxconn is hugely important not only in China — it’s the largest employer in China — Foxconn is important around the world. So, Foxconn — and in some ways, it’s a remarkable story. It started — it’s owned by a Taiwanese gentleman named Terry Gou, who started in Taiwan rebuilding circuit boards in, essentially, a — one little sort of storefront with a couple of other people, very, very low-level labor. And he’s built that now into the largest electronics manufacturer in the world. Forty percent of all electronics sold are assembled by Foxconn. He employs about 1.2 million people in China, so he’s among the largest employers.

And more importantly, the psychological impact of Foxconn is tremendous throughout Asia, because, as Terry Gou has become one of the richest people in the world, he’s shown that there is this path towards enormous wealth creation by taking very, very simple tasks, automating them with humans, and then going and competing for contracts.

And so, one person I talked to, who was a former Apple employee, had told me that basically Apple helped make Foxconn real. You know, they were a large supporter of the company, and have been for many years, because they need Foxconn. Without Foxconn — and there’s only really one or two other companies that can do what Foxconn does — you can’t produce 300 million iPhones. You need a partner like this that you can give designs to, and they can start it rolling out a week later. And Foxconn does it amazingly. Now, conditions inside the plants are fairly harsh, as Mike so eloquently describes. But it is — it’s a new type of company that really we haven’t seen in history.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this worker ["the man with the claw"].

MIKE DAISEY: This is a worker I spoke with whose hand had been maimed in a metal press. And he said he had not received any medical treatment, and his hand healed this way. And then he had been too slow when he came back to work, and he was fired for being too slow, and then, now worked at a woodworking plant. And he had been working on the line building iPads. And I spoke with — when he told me this, I showed him my iPad, which had just come out right before I went to Shenzhen. And I showed him the iPad, and it was the first time he had seen an iPad in its completed state, because the people on the production line are often very carved off. Each step is very, very minute. The devices are very expensive, of course, and so they’re closely monitored. And so, no one has an opportunity to even handle them, in a way, really, outside of your individual step. And so, I turned it on for him and showed it to him, this thing that he had actually been maimed building. And it was his first time moving the icons back and forth. And he had a very human reaction, which is, he thought it was beautiful, you know? Which I think is understandable, because Apple does make beautiful devices.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Charles Duhigg, the actual working conditions at these plants, the hours that the workers work, the salaries that they make?

CHARLES DUHIGG: It, by American standards, would be almost unconscionable. So, most workers inside the large plants — small plants are usually worse than large plants — but inside the large plants, they’re usually inside the factory for at least 12 hours a day. There’s some breaks in there. The shifts themselves are about 10 hours. But very often — and Foxconn says this isn’t accurate, so I need to caveat that, but our reporting indicates that it is — very often, people are asked to work two shifts in a row. So it’s not uncommon for someone to spend an entire day within a Foxconn plant.

The amount that they earn, it’s a hard number to give, because the Chinese government keeps the currency of China low, so that it sounds — so that it sounds lower than what they’re earning. And it is a good wage. There’s a lot of — there’s a lot of people who migrate from villages into cities. They work for 10 years. They earn enough money that they can go back to their village and open up a small store or some other type of company. But by American standards, it’s $17 a day to $21 a day. And by American standards, it’s an enormously, enormously low amount of money. It is not a quality of life that we’ve become accustomed to. And it’s not a working condition that Americans would tolerate or that would be legal inside this country.

entire interview at Democracynow website